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Aboriginals protesting B.C. pipeline call for UN help as RCMP blockade them

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Hereditary chiefs for a B.C. aboringinal group blockading Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project are asking for the UN’s help after the RCMP set up roadblocks into the area.

“This weekend, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs invoked special communication procedures of the UN Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights,” the group said in a statement.

“These procedures will allow joint input from UN experts specializing in the human rights protection of Indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, the environment, and those facing forced eviction.

“These UN human rights experts are independent authorities who monitor compliance with international human rights obligations, including rapporteurs on housing, environment, human rights, Indigenous peoples, and racism.”

“RCMP have increased equipment and personnel presence in the area, conducting fly-overs, drone surveillance, and foot patrols. They have restricted helicopter access to the area and established an “exclusion zone”, blocking roads into Wet’suwet’en villages and denying entry to Wet’suwet’en people.

“Police are demanding identification, controlling access, and plan to detain all individuals who leave our territory. Several reporters have been denied access to the area, while supply lines for food, medical supplies, and crucial winter gear are threatened.”

The RCMP said they have found traps like felled trees and three stacks of tires along with flammables along the access road.

A group of felled trees across the Coastal GasLink road.
Courtesy Coastal GasLink

The band claims no one from the provincial or federal government will meet with them.

On Jan. 7, 2019, RCMP arrested 14 protesters along the B.C. logging road. 

International attention was drawn to the issue when a British newspaper reported RCMP were ready to shoot protesters when they broke up the camp. The RCMP denied the story.

“(B.C. Premier) John Horgan has signaled that he supports the continued construction of Coastal Gaslink. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are gravely concerned that Horgan will respond to our grievances with militarized police instead of diplomacy,” the statement read.

The UN has already called on council to stop construction.

On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted CGL an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation from blocking the pipeline route near Smithers, B.C.

But the situation has been further complicated after an Jan. 3 indict by the Unist’ot’en, a smaller group within the First Nation, that they intend to terminate an agreement that had granted the company access to the land.

In a statement late Monday, B.C RCMP commander Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Stratchan said she had been “involved in a series of meetings that have taken place or are being scheduled with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, Elected Councils and other stakeholders.”

She said a checkpoint had been set up at the 27-km mark of the forest service road “to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway.”

RCMP said anyone passing the checkpoint will be given a copy of the injunction and be required to explain why they wish to enter the area. Chiefs, government officials, accredited journalists and people delivering food and medicine would generally be given access, they said.

The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline will deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to the LNG Canada facility near Kitimat, B.C., a distance of 670 km.

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: @Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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UCP moves to cut vehicle insurance costs

But NDP leader Rachel Notley said the entire provincial system should be nationalized like in BC.

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The UCP is introducing new vehicle insurance regulations it says will give Alberta drivers faced with skyrocketing rates a break.

But NDP leader Rachel Notley said the entire provincial system should be nationalized like in BC.

“Alberta’s government is proposing changes that will contain costs and stabilize premiums in the auto insurance system, while increasing medical benefits to support Albertans injured in collisions. Other changes include cutting red tape and bringing efficiencies to the system to give Alberta drivers more options and flexibility,” the government said in a Thursday release.

Finance Minsiter Travis Toews said: ““Both drivers and insurers have been paying the consequences of the previous government’s ill-thought-out rate cap that left many Alberta drivers without reasonable insurance options. These actions will start to ease cost pressures and stabilize premiums for Alberta drivers.”

The UCP said the new measures will increase insurance affordability by controlling cost pressures, including putting more minor injuries under the compensation cap for pain and suffering damages, and using a floating rate for interest accumulated on pain and suffering damages.

They said there will be an increase in medical benefits to support Albertans injured in traffic accidents with access to more health professionals and inflation-adjusted benefits to deal with the after-effects of collisions.

They claim Bill 41 will create more consumer choice by enabling insurance companies to offer more insurance options such as pay-per-kilometre.

Bill 41 will also modernize and improve Alberta’s insurance system by cutting red tape in the auto insurance system and allowing direct compensation for property damage to allow not-at-fault drivers to work directly with their own insurers for vehicle repairs after collisions, the UCP said.

Alberta currently pays the third-highest insurance rates behind only BC and Quebec.

“Albertans should expect to see a break from steep increases to their premiums, or any potential savings in the coming months,” the government release said.

Celyeste Power, Vice-President, Western Region, Insurance Bureau of Canada said: “We believe that auto insurance is all about balance and we are hopeful that these changes strike that right balance so that auto insurance is affordable and accident victims get the care they need. We think Bill 41 is a step in the right direction as it focuses on affordability and ensuring accident victims get the care they need to recover from car accidents.”

Meanwhile, Notley said the best thing the government can do is nationalize the auto insurance industry – much like the ICBC system in B.C. where residents pay the highest rates in the country.

ICBC also loses about $1 billion a year despite having a monopoly.

“When the insurance companies say (they) can’t possibly afford to provide insurance, ‘We’re going to leave the province,’ well, that sounds like it’s opening up a market for somebody else to provide something that would be less expensive and ensure that profits remain inside the province,” said Notley to the Globe and Mail.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Morneau cleared by ethics commissioner in WE expenses scandal

But Dion said he will continue to investigate Morneau for not recusing himself from a federal cabinet decision handing the WE charity almost a billion dollars

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Former federal finance minister Bill Morneau is off the hook in an ethics investigation into his expenses on a trip with the scandal-plauged WE charity.

But he’s not completely off the hook yet.

Ethics commissioner Mario Dion said he accepted the fact Morneau simply forgot about $41,000 expenses he racked up on a trip with the charity to Kenya and Ecuador.

“I accept that you genuinely believed you had paid for the entire cost of both trips, including the portion of the trip that involved the use of non-commercial chartered aircraft,” Dion wrote in an Oct. 28 letter obtained by CBC.

“I have also reviewed the documentary evidence submitted as part of my examination under the act … this evidence corroborates your position with respect to your belief that you paid for the total cost of your and your family’s personal travel in 2017.

“Moreover, the evidence suggests that the WE organization invited your spouse and daughter to participate in these trips, and that you had no involvement in the planning and preparation of either event.

 “I am of the view that you did not accept a gift from WE Charity.”

But Dion said he will continue to investigate Morneau for not recusing himself from a federal cabinet decision handing the WE charity almost a billion dollars to run a youth jobs program at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morneau’s daughter worked at the charity at the time of the decision.

“I remain seized of allegations relating to possible violations of subsection 6(1) and section 21 of the Act,” Dion wrote

After resigning in August at the height of the scandal, Morneau said he was in the running to be the next secretary general for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As a parliamentary finance committee was looking into the scandal, Morneau announced he was writing the charity a cheque to cover $41,000 in expenses. He claimed he thought the expenses had already been paid.

Morneau made the announcement the day he appeared to testify at the committee.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also under investigation after it was revealed his mother, brother and wife had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from the charity, which has since disbanded its Canadian operations.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Millions of shoppers had image taken by Cadillac Fairview cameras

Most of the customers didn’t know their images were being collected by cameras embedded in information kiosks.

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More than five million shoppers across Canada had their images collected in 12 malls owned by Cadillac Fairview, an investigation by privacy commissioners has found.

Most of the customers didn’t know their images were being collected by cameras embedded in information kiosks in July 2018.

“The goal, the company said, was to analyze the age and gender of shoppers and not to identify individuals. Cadillac Fairview also asserted that shoppers were made aware of the activity via decals it had placed on shopping mall entry doors that referred to their privacy policy – a measure the Commissioners determined was insufficient,” the commissioners said in a Thursday release.

“Cadillac Fairview also asserted that it was not collecting personal information, since the images taken by camera were briefly analyzed then deleted. However, the Commissioners found that Cadillac Fairview did collect personal information, and contravened privacy laws by failing to obtain meaningful consent as they collected the 5 million images with small, inconspicuous cameras.  Cadillac Fairview also used video analytics to collect and analyze sensitive biometric information of customers.”

The investigation also found facial recognition software was used to generate additional personal information about individual shoppers, including estimated age and gender.

While the images were deleted, investigators found that the sensitive biometric information generated from the images was being stored in a centralized database by a third party.

Cadillac Fairview stated that it was unaware that the database of biometric information existed, which compounded the risk of potential use by unauthorized parties or, in the case of a data breach, by malicious actors, said the release.

“Shoppers had no reason to expect their image was being collected by an inconspicuous camera, or that it would be used, with facial recognition technology, for analysis,” says Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien.

“The lack of meaningful consent was particularly concerning given the sensitivity of biometric data, which is a unique and permanent characteristic of our body and a key to our identity.” 

Jill Clayton, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta, said: “This investigation exposes how opaque certain personal information business practices have become.

“Not only must organizations be clear and up front when customers’ personal information is being collected, they must also have proper controls in place to know what their service providers are doing behind the scenes with that information.”

Michael McEvoy, Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, said: “Questions about when an organization is collecting personal information can be complex, but the conclusion we came to about cameras in mall directories was straight-forward, – pictures of individuals were taken and analyzed in a manner that required notice and consent.”

The company has now removed the cameras and has no plans to reinstall them.

In a statement, the company said: “While the focus of this report is of a technology that was disabled and removed more than two years ago, we want to reiterate that we take the concerns of our visitors seriously and are committed to protecting our visitors’ privacy. 

“As we continue to enhance the in-mall experience and better connect with our digitally engaged customers, we are, and will always be, deeply committed to privacy and responsible data usage.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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